Nothing draws crowds like a parade. Bang a drum, toot a horn, wave a flag, fill the streets with orderly lines of people and other people will line up to watch and cheer. Parades laid the foundation for today’s “Look At Me!” culture and were popular long before Selfies and the Oscar/Emmy/CMA/Golden Globe/Critics Choice/SAG/Grammys/BAFTA/Tony awards and Dancing-Idols-Got-Voice talent shows.
We are not only talking about Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade that kicks off the Happy Holidays Shopping Season. From North Korea, where Dear Leader’s world-class display of troops, missiles and coffins of executed relatives, to Paris, where Bastille Day – bristling with tanks and probably semi-nude French people (just a rumor), parades are popular. This year our President has ordered his own parade extravaganza for Veterans Day, which (if you’re not careful) triggers that Tianamen Square image of “Man-in-Front-of-Tank.”
Here in Sonoma RFD, the July 4th Parade is right around the corner and organizers are taking applications from those who want to be in it. It is perhaps the biggest one-day tourist draw of the year, with thousands flocking to the Plaza from other parts of the Valley where roads and streets are too perilously pot-holed to safely stage a parade.
Everyone looks forward to seeing the parade entries. Aside from The Flag there is always at least a token symbolic military participation. After all, it’s the 4th and throughout history America has honed its war-making talent in countless bloodlettings at home and abroad. Actually, they aren’t countless – since 1776 we’ve been at war ‘someplace’ for 225 out of the last 242 years and only lost two: One to Vietnam in 1975, and the other to Canada. Yes – we often invaded Canada in the War of 1812 to try to take it from the Brits. As a warning not to try that again, the Brits burned the White House. Still, the War Trilogy holidays — Memorial Day, Veterans Day and the 4th — remind us that without War there can be no Peace.
But Sonoma’s 4th of July parade entries are overwhelmingly peaceful. Like farm machinery, most of which is used to pull floats festooned with animals, displays and people from various groups, businesses, organizations and political entities. Costumes are also popular with float-riders, tending to themes that demonstrate devotion and pride in our Small Town Heritage.
While the day is invariably festive, occasionally a divisive note has slipped into the Line of March. Many will recall the parade of 2005, a time when the Nation was still outraged to learn that — after thousands of dead GI’s and contrary to “intelligence” assessments — there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq after all. That year a local couple from the Sonoma Peace and Justice group dressed as grieving Iraqi parents and paraded with a large “Bush Lied!” sign, to considerable applause.
Alas, not everyone applauded. An outraged local Republican woman rushed from the sidelines, snatched the sign and ripped it to shreds, determined that a parade celebrating America Freedoms would not be defiled by any First Amendment free-speech poppycock. Many were shocked to see that Sonoma’s reputation for inclusive small-town tranquility and friendliness — hyped at no small expense by the Visitors Bureau and the Tourism Improvement District — could be so easily shredded by political passion.
The incident stands as a powerful lesson and stark reminder to this year’s would-be parade participants: Make those “F*** Trump!” signs out of stronger material.